Photo credit: Technology Will Save Us
A designer by training, Bethany Koby co-founded Technology Will Save Us in 2012 to instigate learning and encourage creativity using technology for young people and families. Her company manufactures Do It Yourself kits in East London and sells to budding engineers and makers all over the world so they can build and program their own devices and projects.
Koby believes that “people learn more when they care about what they make,” which explains the emphasis Technology Will Save Us puts on constructing speakers and music synthesizers, homemade electronic play-dough sculptures (pictured opposite) and thirsty plant monitors.
The some-assembly-required mentality behind her products provides an educational opportunity built for a technology-focused modern economy, though most consumers are just having fun building something they can then actually use.
“Twenty-first-century learning happens around the kitchen table as well as in the classroom,” she observes, “and it happens through hardware and software, online and offline.”
One of the company’s most popular products is the DIY Gamer Kit (pictured above), a portable video game device with a small LED screen, which is first assembled and then programmed by a maker.
The experience helps improve understanding of how the hardware works and teaches coding.
With about half of their kits destined for the United States, global markets were important to Technology Will Save Us from the beginning.
“We’ve always known that we wanted to have a global impact and skill related to technology are universally relevant and exciting. To be a seriously scalable business we needed to tap into larger markets than just the UK,” says Koby. “In terms of our ambition, strategy and future growth, global markets are essential and an exciting part of the next phase of the business.”
The company originally sold only direct-to-consumer through their online shop. “E-commerce enabled us to be an instant global business,” she observes. “We’ve shipped our product to over 80 countries in the past 18 months,” she says.
“Without an open global Internet, it just wouldn’t be possible. It allows us to scale quicker, rather than setting up regional offices in different territories. We’re able to keep our team lean and still operate in foreign markets.”
The company developed an interactive storybook app, which requires an open internet, that pairs with their physical dough kits to make simple circuits with light, sound and motion.
More recently, they began partnering with specialty retailers like the Museum of Modern Art’s Design Store in New York, which also acquired a DIY Gamer Kit for its permanent design collection in 2014.
While their brand is global, local understanding matters.
“Don’t underestimate how important is to really understand the markets you’re entering, specifically the difference in customers between new markets and your home market,” she warns.
“So many UK business think the U.S. market is similar to the UK. They underestimate the differences between the UK and U.S. and even within the U.S. The west coast market is different than the east coast for our products.”
She emphasizes the importance of investing in technology to coordinate global operations.
“It’s everything from robust communication tools like Slack – which our team use more than e-mail now right now – through to using a freight forwarder with a user-friendly portal that allows us to track shipments, troubleshoot customs and make sure our product lands on time and keeps our clients happy.”